SpaceX’s plans to launch 4400 satellites in order to circle the planet with broadband access has moved a step closer.
Last week SpaceX filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to operate the first batch of satellites at a lower orbit, and to start the shell of the system next year, which is significantly faster than previously announced.
The Starlink plans call for an initial 1584 satellites to orbit at just 550 kilometres high. The previous specification talked about an orbital height of 1150 kms. The lower orbit should considerably improve broadband speeds and lower the overall latency of messages and downloads.
The lower height also has the considerable advantage of reducing potential interference with other satellites, claims SpaceX. The lower orbits, however, also mean that a typical end-of-life scenario would mean that a failed craft would enter the atmosphere after about 5 years and burn up safely.
There is a complication which SpaceX refers to in its FCC application. It asks the FCC to speedily accept its application and to by-pass the long-winded wait for the ITU’s approval for the scheme.
SpaceX will likely launch all of these satellites itself. Next year it is planning about 22 launches, although most are already committed for other satellite clients.